Year-round travelers can see manatees in Florida’s oceans, rivers, creeks, streams, and other forms of water. But in the colder months (from November to April) the manatees migrate to the Sunshine State to escape the icy ocean waters. These Migratory and resident manatees make Florida the perfect place to get up close to these gentle giants.
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Sometimes called the Manatee Capital of the World, it is the first choice for any visit looking to see these protected mammals. It is located on the west coast of Florida about 90 minutes north of Tampa. This is one of the few places where you can swim with manatees in the world. The springs flow at a constant 22°C, a perfect respite for these warm-blooded mammals, and the added bonus for us is that we can see them in perfectly clear water.
Swimming excursions are an option in the Crystal River, but only after being informed about the dos and don’ts for interacting with the animals. Although manatees are naturally very inquisitive and often initiate interactions with humans, they are highly protected by law and swimmers must always practice passive observation. Learning the rules and tricks of manatee encounters guarantees the best and most rewarding experience for everyone. Let’s remember that you are a guest in their home.
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Also located in Crystal River Three Sisters Springs, one of the most famous spots, is home to large numbers of manatees in the winter. Here you can go kayaking or take a boat tour of the waterfalls. Just remember, be respectful and watch from afar. Just down the road is Homosassa Springs, slightly less well known but with a large number of tours, including Blue Heaven River Tours to get up close to the lovely sea cows.
Blue Spring State Park, Orange City
Located north of Orlando in Orange City, Blue Spring State Park is a designated refuge for manatees and is ideal for manatee viewing. The prime manatee viewing area, with a translucent waterfall at one end and the St. Johns River at the other. Interpretive exhibits along the boardwalk provide history and education about the wildlife (especially manatees) and the ecological wonders of the area.
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Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center
A 90-minute drive from Orlando, this designated manatee sanctuary is home to large numbers of Florida manatees, who return annually to the warm discharge waters of the Big Bend Power Plant., This more than 20-hectare establishment has observation platforms, tidal walkways and an environmental education center,
Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myer
Located in southwest Florida, Lee County Manatee Park is a warm water haven during the winter months. The park offers various programs to the public, such as group tours, dedicated events, and fishing opportunities as well.
This park works best as a day trip, where You can rent a kayak and get into the water to get up close to the manatees. It also has playgrounds and picnic areas, making it an especially good option for family outings.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville
This National Wildlife Refuge is located just north of the famous Cape Canaveral, This is another protected area in which the manatees get extra protection.
The Hallover Canal connects the Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River, and There is a manatee viewing area on the east side of the bridge., The observation area has platforms, interpretive signs, a ramp for boats, and a tinted balcony.
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Manatee Lagoon – An FPL Eco-Discovery Center®, Riviera Beach
Manatee Lagoon is a free educational attraction in Palm Beach County, an area dedicated to viewing manatees up close. The center features engaging hands-on exhibits for visitors to learn about these unique and endangered gentle giants as well as the natural wonders that surround Lake Worth’s lagoon. On cold winter days, the facility’s observation deck overlooks Florida Power & Light’s adjacent Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center.